Almost anyone involved in the gun world who is also a shooter comes to value–and sometimes yearn for–simplicity in some facet of shooting, such as a handgun with minimal whistles and bells.
In my first Gunsite pistol class several years ago, I shot a different handgun every day for three very loooong days (frustrating to maddening, but I was too suborn to try a handgun other than what I liked on paper), trying to find out what I could effectively shoot under stress, clear, clean and service.
When the time was right, the Gunsite course instructor kindly gave me a brief history lesson about John Moses Browning, the 1911, and why Jeff Cooper made it Gunsite’s pistol of choice so long ago. I protested for a while–until I shot all variants of 1911s (officers and commanders) made by several different manufacturers, production to custom, in the span of several Gunsite 150 Pistol courses. I then “converted.”
This is not to say I do not own and carry and other handguns. I do. They are all tools for different applications.
Nevertheless, over the years, I have come to fully appreciate the genius of this 100+ year old design, understanding the only real improvements have come long after the fact by virtue of technological and scientific advances: Most boil down to manipulation of, and applications to, raw-to-finished materials (metallurgy) and better machine manufacturing technologies (CNC) and/or hand fitting of such better-made components (frames, slides, and the like).
Frankly, after having several 1911s “Ion-Bond”-ed inside and out for remarkable corrosion resistance, tough as nails finish, and inherent lubricity properties, I did not think there was much anything else that could be done to perfect the 1911: I had reached what I believed was 1911 nirvana, at least with some of my hand-built 1911s from Wilson Combat (i.e., “SuperGrade”) and other top-end companies.
In many respects, the most basic 1911 production gun built in the last several years is “there”, or can be, with minor changes or additions like Novak low-profile, adjustable night sights. The difference between a 1911 costing a few hundred dollars to $1,000 or little more and one costing $2,000 to $5,000 is small.
The only incongruity or issue I believe that exists with the 1911 (in the theoretical, at least for most outside civilian special weapons teams and members of the Special Forces community, which does not apply to me) is the potential tradeoff between reliability and/or accuracy and/or cost differential that exists between production 1911s and those with hand-fitted components or 1911s that are completely custom.
Specifically, the potential issue with production 1911s is they may work more or less well out of the box and/or with replacement parts. However, at least as perception has it, production 1911s are more prone to malfunction or lack accuracy. For many, including those who may live or die when faced with a (production) gun malfunction, this may be an always-present concern.
With custom and/or hand-fitted 1911s, some are finicky about ammunition they will feed, although they may have been fully vetted with, and will feed, a specified brand and bullet weight and type (ball vs. hollow point). In addition, because these hand-fitted 1911s have tight tolerances, this means they can be prone to malfunction when dirty (by sheer volume of shooting and fouling or environmental factors). In addition, a broken part may render the gun a “paperweight” until a gun smith can custom fit a needed part.
If the are issues you are not concerned about or are interested in, as an actual or theoretical concern, you should probably stop reading this blog post at this point–pick a good production gun or hand-fitted or fully custom1911 and life is good, mostly.
On the other hand, if good may not be good enough, read on.
At the January 2012 Shot Show in Las Vegas, I could not get to Cabot Guns and spend the time to investigate the “fuss” over their 1911s. Fortunately, Robert A. Bianchin, President, Cabot Guns and Cabot’s display was at Safari Club International’s 40th Anniversary convention in Vegas a couple of weeks later. By that time, I had obtained a better understanding of Cabot 1911s–I thought–and could catch-up on what I missed sometime later when I did further research.
In summarily passing by the Cabot booth, I was struck by the strong, enthusiastic, and downright contagious, personality I found in Mr. Bianchin (I suspect he would cringe by being called “Mr.” anything, as it deflects from his message about Cabot). Instead of my short, methodological conversation a big trade show forces me to have to get facts, I spent until closing time the final day talking with Rob.
Let me tell you he could sell anything with his dynamic personality. However, my friends, Cabot is not selling snake oil, nor fluff. But better the 1911 in a significant way? Really?
Indeed, Rob should have been tired and trying to pack up shop in those closing minutes of SCI 2012. But instead, he spent it with me and my dad (also Robert), and I was compelled to listen to his pitch for Cabot (I quite enjoyed it, and it renewed my faith in American ingenuity and determination to continue to be innovators recognized world wide).
This scenario (being educated by Rob and having an extended conversation) is rather ironic since you have eight choices in a Cabot 1911, like it or not (you will like it). My first thought was not after being flatly told “no” by my first two opening questions: Question #1: “Can I get it in 10mm (or other) calibers?” Rob’s curt answer, “no.” Question #2: “Does it come in commander or officer configurations?” Again, Rob’s answer, a quick, “no.”
Then, Rob began to provide information and analysis in an almost Shaman-like state that unlocked the riddle of whether to choose a production 1911 or a hand-fitted/custom? Cabot offers, well, a new choice, choice three: A production 1911 that is totally reliable with virtually all types of ammunition any 1911 would feed, all with standard, drop-in parts that require no gun smithing–none.
Now it is a tease to call a Cabot a “production” 1911: Cabot’s story is hardly one describing a company making a “production” 1911 and “drop-in” or near exact parts (Cabot refers to its 1911s as “post-custom”). Instead, to do Cabot justice, think about this: Take an unique parent company and consider the 1911 in light of its cutting-edge resources, with no limitations in terms of technology, money, time or marketability.
This blog post’s borrowed title (an old wedding adage) aptly captures how Cabot (a new player on the 1911 scene) can back up this bold claim to offer the first “post-custom” 1911: “SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW, SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING BLUE.” This is not a mere claim and part-fiction: A few minutes with Rob and handling Cabot’s 1911 line demonstrates even to the cynic (like me), this is FACT!
The “something old” is obviously the fact that Cabot did not try to improve on the fundamental, flawless John Browning engineering design for the 1911. The magic of the 1911, by its few parts, is that all work in harmony to be a 1911. So Cabot did not try to fix something not broken. Many readers probably breathed a sigh of relief when they read this.
Nor did Cabot try to reinvent the wheel where it did not need to be and used, as appropriate, someone else’s “something new”: Cabot uses the Novak low profile sites on its guns where this is consistent with the 1911 product (not the GI with iron sights). Many would argue Novak’s current design, including the low profile adjustable sight, cannot be improved upon . . . .
The “something borrowed” (and applied) is where Cabot has done what no one else could or would do, likely ever. Cabot is probably a decade or more ahead of any would-be, serious competitor. Specifically, Cabot is the child born of machinists, engineers, and a host of other non-stone-left-unturned professionals at Penn United Technologies, Inc.
Penn is a global goods and services company serving the defense, aero-space, medical and communications industries. In the boiling brew of ideas within Penn, given the intersections of its diverse tech-driven industry segments, some Penn employees (gun guys) thought about the technology and resources they had at their fingertips and what it might do with the venerable 1911.
The result is engineering and equipment that makes 1911 components beyond what any man and/or machine has done before.
In fact, Rob claims Cabot’s 1911parts begin with tolerances above those made by CNC machines and the completed product (1911s and/or parts of other manufacture), with all components being completely identical, gun-to-gun and time-after-time. This means that a Cabot 1911 built today, would be able to be disassemble, mixed in a bag with another Cabot 1911 made years later, and each group of parts making up the reassembled guns would perform flawlessly.
How? They are the same, exactly the same.
Nevertheless, to this is added the human touch, such as with Cabot’s 1911 hand polishing. Again, the result is the fit of a hand-built/custom 1911, but with complete part interchangeability. This is what is Cabot’s CLONE TECHNOLOGY®. No other custom gun I own or am aware of can make this claim. I doubt anyone every will.
Indeed a couple moments with a Cabot in your hand and you realize it is something special–really special. The slide–to-frame fit is silky smooth, unlike a somewhat gritty production 1911 (taking nothing from those solid guns), but not “tight” in the sense of hand-fitted slide and frame. Much like a thread of silk, a Cabot is as smooth as it is strong.
Cabot’s 1911s should be as they are engineered and built like a spacecraft or satellite. There are no compromises made–ever–because compromises are outside the thinking in this arena and simply inconceivable. Now, I did not have the opportunity to shoot the Cabot, but I have no doubt it will flawlessly perform with any ammunition and be on par with (or better) the best custom 1911s on the market.
Make no mistake, anything handmade and/or hand fitted or less costly will always be the majority of the market (before it was the market).
However, before you staple this blog post in as the final chapter in your 1911 books and articles, there is a drawback I will discuss shortly, cost. This means it is unlikely Cabot’s 1911 line is coming to a gun store or gunshow near you any time soon. Probably ever.
The machines, tools, and engineering necessary to build Cabot’s 1911s are necessarily cutting edge and expensive–they are effectively the same used for the aerospace, medical, and chemical engineering industry by Penn (and Cabot).
For this reason, the entry-level price point begins where most customs stop: the RangeMaster has a MSRP of $4,950. The top-of-the-line National Standard Delux is $7,450. However, relative to technology “loaned” to Cabot to use in making the “post-custom” 1911 by Penn, this pricing is still a true value when one considers what it took to position Cabot as it is.
The “something blue” is a surprise. But as a hint, Rob informed me there is a blue (by a USA gun artisan and gun smith), perhaps like the famous plasma blue of Korth firearms, that is deep and of a color depth that may find its way onto Cabot’s 1911s in the near future.
The connection probably came from Rob’s passion and one of thousands of conversations he had at the Shot Show or SCI, as it is very hard not to hear Cabot’s story when Rob tells it, be pulled in, and, honestly, be proud to be an American.
Should you consider a Cabot 1911? Yes! Would I buy one? Yes. I suspect my order will hit Cabot’s books about the time this blog post comes up (there are 7 choices, since I am not left handed, and Cabot has a true lefty).
Cabot’s (dollar) value is in what it accomplishes: It solves the riddle of a custom gun and accuracy and reliability versus production interchangeability, relative to price points. Few shooters may every get to this consideration in light of Cabot’s 1911, where it is irrelevant because there are no trade offs. Even so, just knowing about Cabot is important in that it is a benchmark in the 1911 annals of history.
In making your 1911 purchase decision, remember also everyone can own something mass produced or handmade. A Cabot is neither as it is conceived of in terms of the current 1911 market. It is only the best of both.
If you collect the best, or can afford the Cabot for a defensive handgun, there is only one question to answer: “Which one in the Cabot line?” Perhaps this is all theoretical. A LEO will likely have to carry a department issued-weapon. A collector may put this special gun next to a finely engraved double rifle in a safe or vault, viewing it as much art as a working tool.
But in the final analysis, if I had to carry a 1911 for protection, and there were no other variables (i.e., cost and size/length), a Cabot would make the shortest of lists. Ask yourself: “Is this insurance worth the price?” You know my answer. And something tells me John Browning smiled a little when Cabot entered the 1911 world.
This blog post is written by Bryan L. Ciyou, Ciyou & Dixon, P.C., Indianapolis, Indiana. It is not a solicitation for legal services. It is not an endorsement by any manufacturer herein and is the sole opinion of author and attorney Bryan L. Ciyou.