Les Baer handguns are legendary 1911s with more than a little hand fitting, and a vial of the maker’s sweat included. They are built, rather than assembled, and offer topflight performance for discerning shooters.
Les Baer guns are tightly fitted—no question there. This fitting means the tolerances are kept tight. This doesn’t just mean the pistol will be accurate. In a mechanical sense, a tight fit is important for accuracy, but this fitting also means that after firing, the parts return to the same place time after time.
There isn’t any slop that would cause eccentric wear to begin. Over time, a pistol of this type will retain its accuracy and reliability. There is a modest break-in period specified by Les Baer. Just the same, using full power handloads, my pistol came out of the box running and never short cycled or failed to feed, chamber, fire, or eject.
There is a lot going on with the 1911. As the pistol fires, the slide moves to the rear. The recoil spring is compressed. The extractor pulls the spent case from the chamber. The magazine feeds a new cartridge, which bumps into the feed ramp, causing the cartridge case rim to snug into the extractor as the cartridge is led into the chamber. The cartridge case must headspace, not on the extractor, but on the case mouth for good accuracy.
Another advantage in this handgun is the precision with which the rifling is cut. The barrel to bushing fit was tight. However, it wasn’t so tight as to present a difficulty in fieldstripping. You will probably need a bushing tool though.
The slide is nicely machined with forward cocking serrations. This is, after all, a combat gun for all occasions, not a target gun. The cuts are well done. The sights are similar to the Novak, but the sight picture is tighter. There are no distracting three dots set into the sights.
The all-steel hammer is skeletonized. The slide lock safety is an ambidextrous design. The right lever, for left hand use, is slightly smaller than the left pedal. This design is ideal for speed work. The indent is tight and sharp with an audible click as the safety is locked in place. The plunger tube is firmly staked in place.
The grip safety is a modern, upswept type. The safety funnels the hand into the proper firing position and compliments an already low bore axis. The grip safety properly releases its hold on the trigger at mid way into compression of the grip safety. The trigger is flawless—ideal for a personal defense or service pistol—at 5.0 pounds.
There is a nicely done checkered front strap at 30 lines per inch. This grip strap provides excellent adhesion when firing and isn’t too abrasive. If your hands are sweating or cold, this front strap is a great addition to any 1911.
The grips are nicely checkered cocobolo. The trigger is an aluminum target type and the backstrap is the flat profile. The pistol comes in a plain cardboard box with a spare magazine.
My initial firing was undertaken with handloads. My handloads are not a second choice to factory loads—far from it. The handloads are the rounds I prefer for accuracy. They are also inexpensive. I wanted to get a lot of rounds through the pistol and out of the break-in stage. Among the most accurate loads have been those with the Magnus 200-grain SWC at 1,050 fps and the Magnus 225-grain flat point at 800 fps. Hodgdon TiteGroup is the powder of choice. Today, at just over 1,250 cartridges, there have been no failures of any type.
The pistol is a 1911 at its very best. The typical 1911 low bore axis and straight-to-the-rear trigger compression are complemented by the Les Baer Custom trigger action and beavertail safety. Control is excellent. The front strap checkering keeps your hand steady and the pistol handles well in speed shooting.
The pistol is a pleasure to fire and responds well to a trained shooter. While this isn’t a target gun, it shoots like one. While 90% of the cartridges fired have been from standing and learning the pistol’s capabilities by firing at small and large targets at known and unknown distance, I also fired from a solid bench rest. I jumped right to the top of precision and used Federal’s 230-grain MATCH load. Accuracy is consistently excellent. I have fired several 5-shot 1.5-inch groups with this load and the Concept VI—some larger and some even smaller. The pistol comes with a guarantee of a 3-inch group at 50 yards. You can take that to the bank.
Hands on Personal Defense
A go-anywhere do-anything pistol should be useful with a wide variety of loads. An impressive loading that I presently deploy in the Les Baer is the Gorilla Ammunition 230-grain FBI load. This isn’t the standard issue of the FBI, but it meets all FBI criteria as a service load. Gorilla Ammunition also offers a faster 230-grain load with greater expansion.
The FBI load offers excellent penetration and expansion and meets my needs. At just over 800 fps, it will group 5-shots into less than two inches on demand. If traveling in the outdoors, animals may be a threat. The pistol is accurate enough for deer-sized game to 35 yards or more. I have test fired the Double Tap 230-grain JHP at 1,005 fps with excellent results. Recoil is there but so is accuracy and power. A very interesting load for home defense is the Double Tap 255-grain Equalizer. This one uses a 185-grain JHP over a flat nosed 70-grain lead projectile.
In the illustrations, the more ragged holes are from the JHP; the flat nose bullet makes a cleaner hole. I like this load a lot. At 840 fps, the 255-grain load equals most .45 Colt loads but doesn’t recoil much. The bullets impact about 2 inches apart, even at a long 20 yards. This is a load that would seem to be a good candidate for sensory overload of even the well-frayed senses of our protein-fed ex-con criminal class. This pistol invites experimentation with different loads. While some are more accurate than others none have been disappointing.
|Les Baer Concept VI|
The Les Baer handguns are excellent, first class 1911 handguns. Are they perfect? Perhaps not, but they are very close. The only drawback I have found with my personal handgun is that when using the thumbs forward grip, the grip safety pinches my thumb slightly if the grip is taken before the safety is moved to the fire position. I can work with that. In the foreseeable future this will be my go to .45. It will be difficult to beat this one.
Do you own a Les Baer? How does it compare to other 1911s? Share your answers in the comment section.
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