When you begin to search for a quality firearm, you may like to look over the top-end types. You must wonder whether the top-end guns are worth the money. Can you afford this gun? Do you think you deserve it? Is it the coolest thing you have seen? These are valid questions. Another question may be how much you are limited by lesser firearms?
When you’ve been shooting for some time, and have a good idea of your capabilities, you may feel the itch to step up to a high-end handgun. Until then, there are good, less-expensive pistols that serve well.
Most high-end handguns are 1911 types, but there are also high-end Beretta, Glock, CZ and SIG types. Not that long ago, there were no high-end factory guns, by today’s standards. The Colt National Match stood alone.
The shooter desiring an exceptional handgun sent his gun to Clark, Action Works, or a few other gunsmiths. These were good guns, but they were still a Colt or Springfield after all the work was done.
Today, Les Baer, Wilson Combat and Nighthawk Custom choose the best materials and manufacture their own parts. This is an expensive process. However, in the end, you’ll have a firearm that is exceptionally well fitted and long wearing.
I have examined some of the original Wilson Combat guns. Even those that have seen hard use still seem to be in excellent condition. These are tough guns. When there are tight tolerances, there is little room for excessive wear. This is the real difference.
The difference between the SIG P320 X-Five Legion and its less expensive little brothers is the tungsten-infused frame and more attention to detail. The sights are a good example. The pistol is expensive, but affordable.
A Les Baer is pretty much hand-forged. It is to handguns what the Excalibur was to other swords, in the minds of many. For most, sacrifices and money saved are involved in obtaining this handgun.
Fit and Finish
As far as function and accuracy are concerned, a high-end handgun is very good. Some guns are excellent performers at a certain price point. As an example, the Magnum Research 1911 reminds me of a Dan Wesson, but it is less expensive. The MR1911 has some MIM parts though. That’s ok, as the pistol works very well. It is a handgun that will defend your person and last for many years. However, if you want a custom-grade forged steel frame and slide, and all of the steel parts to last a lifetime, then you need to spend more money.
The Kimber, Magnum Research and Springfield handguns are well made. The high-end pistol may be built to tighter tolerances. There is no tolerance ambiguity with a Wilson Combat. It’s something that Bill Wilson simply would not allow. Dimension is one thing and tolerance is another.
When reliability is a primary concern and extreme accuracy isn’t as important, expensive machine work and tight tolerances are not at the top of the list. Clearance is the distance between two mating parts. Tolerance is the allowance made for departure from clearance. When the fitting is tight, wonders happen. You also pay a lot for moving the tolerances around another decimal point.
High-End Pistol Performance
When you have reached the point that my friend Rod has, and can shoot to the accuracy potential of a handgun — Rod has shelves of regional and national trophies to prove his skill — you know what you want, and a lesser handgun isn’t as exciting or worthwhile.
I have fired some of Rod’s highly-developed pistols. I don’t shoot them much better than the standard P320 X-Five, as an example, but his award-winning pistols have swept the field several times. He has reached the point that his skill matches the ability of the handgun.
Most of us advance quickly with proper training and practice. However, at some point, we reach a plateau at which we are pretty good shots and stay there for a time, maintaining skill. It takes some effort to advance further. When you do, your skills will be ready to benefit from a high-end pistol. Competition pressure may demand a move up.
Pressure from inside, such as competing against yourself, may be the trigger to select a premium pistol. At times, we simply want the best and are willing to sort our priorities out.
Do you really need a high-end handgun to shoot well and defend yourself to your fullest? Probably not. On the other hand, hig-end can equate to more reliability, which can tip the balances in a self-defense situation. Likewise, if you have the experience to wring top performance from the pistol, it is worth every penny.
Other High-End Handguns
It isn’t just the 1911. There are other types of high-end handguns to consider. As an example, I consider the Glock pistol a baseline for personal defense. The Glock is reliable — something of an understatement in fact. If you pay more for a pistol, you should consider what you are getting.
Are you getting a significant improvement?
If you pay less than the price of the Glock, chances are corners have been cut somewhere and the pistol may not perform as well. There is an elevated design that is based on the Glock, but has excellent upgrades. This is the Shadow Systems MR920. This handgun features a match-grade barrel, night sights and an excellent trigger. There are no drawbacks. The pistol is well worth its price, although it is comparatively more expensive than the Glock these days.
Other upgrades of standard pistols include the Wilson Combat Beretta. Wilson Combat upgraded the Beretta system to the Nth degree and the Wilson Combat Beretta is an outstanding pistol well worth its price. It is manufactured by Beretta with Wilson Combat upgrades and the package is less expensive than modifying the pistol on your own.
The upgraded pistols are exceptional. Adding custom grips or night sights is an option that is simply personalization. Customization goes a lot further.
The most cost-effective means of obtaining a superior handgun is to purchase a high-end pistol. In the meantime, a number of pretty ordinary performers are more than capable of serving well.